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Jazz Hammer Road-Weary Houston

November 20, 2012 3:33 am EST

Utah sends Rockets home on sour note after suffering through 102-91 defeat

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - Every NBA season contains ‘schedule losses,’ the type of defeats you see coming as soon as the league unveils its annual docket in July. You know the kind: That third game in four nights that takes a team across multiple times zones and thousands of miles before dropping them off dead-legged and road weary in a place like, say, Salt Lake City – a destination that frequently proves difficult to master even in the best of circumstances.

Such was the situation for the Rockets Monday night as they wrapped up a rough and rocky road trip with a game against the relatively well-rested Jazz. Making matters worse, James Harden entered the contest severely under the weather, battling what the club called “upper respiratory distress.” The end result then, while not quite a fait accompli, was predictable enough. Utah simply outplayed, outworked and outraced the Rockets, sending them back home to Houston with a 102-91 defeat and a disappointing 0-3 record on their west coast road swing.

“You always worry about your energy level on the third game of a road trip,” said Houston’s acting head coach Kelvin Sampson. “Utah in this gym, they’re pretty good here. They’re tough, physical and they bring it to you.”

That much was apparent early on when the Jazz shook off a sluggish first few minutes and took control of the game, repeatedly beating the Rockets down the floor for fastbreak points and quality looks in transition. Patrick Patterson kept the Rockets competitive in the first quarter by pouring in 13 points in the period, but things rapidly went downhill after that as Utah’s relentless attack and breakneck pace proved too much for Houston to handle. By halftime the Jazz had opened up a 17-point lead, leaving little doubt about where this contest was headed.

“There’s no excuses for tonight,” said Patterson, who finished with game-high 19 points. “Even though we did play in L.A. last night, we’re an NBA team and we’re all professionals out here, we’re all in NBA shape and we’re all fine. Usually we’re known for transition and we’re the ones pushing the ball up miss or makes, but it seemed like tonight the shoe was on the other foot – they were doing that to us. We couldn’t get back in transition or rebound the ball well.”

Having clearly labored through the first half while fighting the effects of a fever, Harden stayed in the locker room during the second half to rest up and recover. His teammates, meanwhile, did their best to battle back, at one point trimming what had been a 23-point Utah lead down to nine. But every time Houston had a chance to dwindle its deficit even more, the team would be undone by an untimely turnover, missed shot or defensive breakdown leading to an easy run-stopping basket for the Jazz.

At no point was that more evident than when Utah was set to inbound the ball beneath its own basket, up by 12, with 3.7 seconds left to play in the third quarter. Inconceivably, the Rockets allowed Gordon Hayward to race down the floor for a buzzer-beating and-1 layup; a play that simultaneously summed up both the night and the sort of nightmarish road trip the Rockets had experienced.

“It’s hard to play, especially on the road, when you get down that big,” said Chandler Parsons, who finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. “It was just all about our effort. In the first half, again, they were getting easy buckets in transition and we just didn’t come out there with the fire and passion that we needed to. Granted we were tired from last night’s road game but there’s no excuses; this is a game we should have come in and stole and we just didn’t come out and play the way we should have.”

QUOTES

KELVIN SAMPSON

I appreciate the fight in our team tonight. The first half was just too loose. We weren’t sure whether or not James was going to be able to go but he wanted to try and I was going to at least allow him to try. In the second he had a temperature, so we just gave him medicine and shut him down to make sure he’s ready to go Wednesday.

The one thing about this team that we’ve got to continue to work at and believe in is move the ball. We give our guys some freedom. We have a lot of guys that mean well; they want to score the basket. But they have to trust that if they enter it on one side of the floor and they go through and we get good ball movement we’re going to play strong-to-weak and they’re going to get it on the weak-side. We’re not there yet.

The first half, our transition D, it’s just basketball 101: You can’t allow the offensive wings to run by you … You’ve got to get back. There’s no excuse for giving up layups in transition.

It’s our third game of this road trip and you always worry about your energy level on the third game of a road trip … Utah in this gym, they’re pretty good here. They’re tough, physical and they bring it to you.

(on Jeremy Lin struggling shooting the ball)

I thought Jeremy played hard and tried. His defense was much better tonight, but he’s just struggling with his shot right now. He;s getting a lot of good looks and he’s trying to finish over some tough guys; it’s hard to finish over Favors and Millsap and Jefferson and those guys. But one thing about Jeremy is he’ll watch film and he’ll figure out what he needs to do. Coaches will get with him and we’ll keep working to help him get better.

CHANDLER PARSONS

It’s hard to play, especially on the road, when you get down that big. It was just all about our effort. In the first half, again, they were getting easy buckets in transition and we just didn’t come out there with the fire and passion that we needed to. Granted we were tired from last night’s road game but there’s no excuses; this is a game we should have come in and stole and we just didn’t come out and play the way we should have.

PATRICK PATTERSON

There’s no excuses for tonight. Even though we did play in L.A. last night, we’re an NBA team and we’re all professionals out here, we’re all in NBA shape and we’re all fine. Usually we’re known for transition and we’re the ones pushing the ball up miss or makes, but it seemed like tonight the shoe was on the other foot – they were doing that to us. We couldn’t get back in transition or rebound the ball well and we just started getting a little bit selfish on the offensive end. It seemed like players were trying to make plays in order to get back in the game, rather than just keep going with the system. We got down and pretty much the whole rest of the game was just a dogfight trying to get back in the game.